Data is the lifeblood of the modern enterprise. Every organization produces data, stores it, and circulates it.
All that hardware and software that we're now constantly connected to — computers, tablets, smartphones, multifunction printers, smart glasses, smart watches, you name it — exists for one reason: data traffic. And that data is becomingly increasingly vulnerable to loss, either by theft or negligence. So it's no surprise that data loss prevention (DLP) has become a top priority for information technology departments and managed services providers (MSPs).
Now, when I say DLP, I'm only talking about solutions and policies directly related to the prevention of data loss and leakage, rather than the recovery of lost data. This is not to say that DLP policies and solutions should ever replace a data back up and recovery plan. DLP, data back up, and disaster recovery planning should all work in conjunction to protect business continuity.
Read on to learn the five ways DLP fits into the business continuity puzzle, including:
- Defining DLP and its importance
- Network-based data protection
- End-point solutions
- Storage point data leaks
- and more!
1. What is Data Loss Prevention? Why is DLP important?
Because not all data is equal, the first thing a DLP solution typically does is identify critical and confidential data, and track it as it circulates through an enterprise. This could include information such as intellectual property like source codes, product designs, client and price lists. Or, it might be financial documents, medical records, or research papers. It could involve data such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, or tax statements.
The type of critical data will vary from enterprise to enterprise. Therefore the most important and first step for any DLP solution is to define what information is both confidential and essential to your organization. After that, a DLP solution must identify where that data resides.
2. Network-Based Data Protection
A comprehensive DLP solution has to look at data as a moving object. To protect data while it's in motion, one aspect of data loss prevention has to focus on the enterprise network perimeter. Here, the DLP solution monitors network traffic to detect data leaks of any kind.
Predefined analysis engines can be programmed to seek out confidential data that is leaving an enterprise via various routes, including:
- Social media interactions
- Instant messaging
- Web applications
- And more
3. End-Point Solutions
With literally billions of devices connected to the Internet, the importance of monitoring them for potential data loss has become a huge task. No one-sized DLP solution fits all enterprises, but they all must focus on monitoring the assorted laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc., which are used for data transfer actions such as CD/DVD downloads, or copying files to a USB thumb drive. Printers and scanners must also be monitored for data leaks and as additional devices become connected via the Internet of Things (IoT), they will need to be monitored, as well.
The solutions can be configured for either passive monitoring mode, or to actively block certain types of activities.
4. Storage Point Data Leaks
Even data at rest still needs protection. Data may be stored in an organization’s own infrastructure in file servers and databases. Depending on the technology used, a DLP solution identifies where all copies of an enterprise’s data reside. Searching for critical data may include methods such as meta-data matching, file watermarks, string matching, conceptual logic, and type-based logic.
After discovering where confidential data resides in storage, it can then be determined why it is there, and if it is on an insecure platform.
5. DLP is Not Just About Data Security
The main task of a DLP solution may be to protect data, but a comprehensive data protection policy can be an effective business tool for managing risk throughout an enterprise. Used efficiently, a DLP solution can play a key role in every department that deals with confidential information.
RELATED: 5 Key Principles for Data Security
A DLP solution will be most useful and effective when managed IT services providers work with business users to implement it. The best way to find the right DLP solution for your organization is to perform a risk assessment and identify what critical data you have, where it lies, and how vulnerable it is to loss or corruption.